Do you know someone who has to be in control of the remote? No matter what'son TV, that person is always looking for something better. Commercials don'texist for advertising purposes but only to allow exploration of all theother viewing options.
Exploring options is part of our nature. But today, the remote control is a metaphor for commitment in America. We wantto control our choices but from a distance, without having to get involved.
Short-term commitments require less. They also offer less. Andwhen people get accustomed to short-term commitments, long-term commitmentsmay seem less necessary. Why should we choose the long-term when theshort-term offers more ease and control?
Barna Research Group says the trend toward shorter commitments has spilledinto the arena of church attendance. Each year, one out of seven adultschanges his or her church membership. Another one out of six regularlyattends a carefully chosen handful of churches on a rotating basis ratherthan sticking with the same church week after week.
What fuels our commitment aversion? Uncertainty.
Virtually all of life is up for grabs. No job issecure. Half of all marriages aren't forever. Consumerism has made us option addicts.And when change is the only cultural constant, long-term commitments beginto look foolish.
Our culture of divorce, particularly, has shaped the worldview andexpectations of young adults. A legacy of pain and uncertainty has mademarriage a risky and sober lifestyle choice, and as a result many youngadults have postponed marriage.
When downsizing and mergers erase any expectation of employer loyalty, anddot-coms portend not only quick riches but also sudden failure,people come to accept job volatility.
But all this talk about commitment aversion can be misleading, says CassidyDale, 29, a research consultant and futurist in Washington, D.C. What often looks like a lack of commitment may actually be a shifting ofcommitments. People still commit, but to different things, says Dale. Perhapswhat we need are new ways to measure loyalty.
"People are basically commitment-oriented, and people choose commitmentsbased on their priorities," says Dale. The Builder generation--those born before 1946--tend to commit toconcrete things, like churches and other institutions. The Boomers--born1946 to 1964--don't feel that allegiance to concrete institutions, so theBuilders see them as noncommittal. On the contrary, the Boomers feel astrong commitment to causes, such as Habitat for Humanity and PromiseKeepers.
Lower commitment to church membership, particularly among Generation Xers,mirrors our skepticism about all institutions, including the companies thatemploy us, says Dale. "Xers don't expect companies to be loyal to them, sothey're not loyal to the companies. They don't know how long a company willbe around, so they don't commit to it. This feeling transfers to churches.And while Xers don't tend to be loyal to institutions, they are loyal totheir friends."
These commitments apparently grow shorter with each generation.Institutions, including churches and denominations, have been around fordecades, even centuries. The causes popular with Boomers are only a decadeor two old, and many less. A Gen Xer's commitment to a community may beconsidered old after a few years.